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Senior citizens upset that center could close for luxury building

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS, Manhattan — Arc XVI Fort Washington Senior Center is more than just salsa classes and bingo.

It is family and a way of life for more than 250 seniors in Upper Manhattan.

"Here we are and we're not going to go," demonstrators chanted in both Spanish and English.

It's not often you see a 103-year-old with a picket sign demonstrating to save her senior center.

But Zoila Medina joined 100 of her much younger friends rallying to keep their center at 174th St. and Broadway open past the Dec. 31 deadline when its lease is up.

"We're here to keep people in the community," Fern Hertzberg, Executive Director of ARC XVI Fort Washington Senior Center, told PIX11.

"We're here to help them nutritionally, healthy mind, body and soul with dance and other activities," Fern added.

"This is my family," Graciela Gaido, who is 84-years-old, told PIX11. "Everyone at this table is my family."

Hundreds of seniors from 110th to 220th Streets get free meals, social services and activities here for 46 years now, 15 at this present location.

But the landlord, Christ Church NYC, put the center on notice, planning to give them only a month by month lease after the first of the year, sparking rumors that perhaps the church was planning to build luxury condos on the site.

"I think they have probably big plans for this building," State Assemblyman Guillermo Linares told PIX11. "And they don't include this senior center."

The landlord, Christ Church NYC, would not comment on possible condos, only issuing a brief statement: "Given the deteriorating physical condition of our building, we are in the process of evaluating how to address its significant and extensive deferred maintenance needs... As a result, we regret that we are unable to renew long-term leases for ARC XVI."

But the politicians rallying pledged they would fight any eviction.

"We will get our lawyers and we will oppose this," State Senator Adriano Espaillat told PIX11. "We will fight this tooth and nail."